Management January 10, 2014 Last updated September 18th, 2018 2,673 Reads share

Achieve Startup Synergy Through Better Human Capital Management

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All newly developed startup teams will go through some turbulence. Many of these individuals have never worked with each other professionally and often have very little business experience if they are college students. In the age of Facebook, Kickstarter and Groupon, startup teams are getting younger, more ambitious and diverse, but the synergy amongst team members is not always there. This is why even the most innovative and creative startups can learn from established companies about effective human capital management (HCM) and team development.

Human capital remains a pillar of all business and industry, and organizations that are adept at managing their staff talent are more likely to achieve operational synergy and boost revenue.

Here are five examples of how startups can create synergy through human capital management based on organizational development best practices:

#1. Set adequate HR policies

Effective human capital management starts with the tone at the top, the way senior management sets the right vision that ultimately trickles down through the rank and file.

HR policies play a unifying role in today’s enterprise, and they help personnel focus on core operational values like productivity, competitiveness, performance and employee cohesion, says Professor Timothy Butler, Senior Fellow and Director of Career Development Programs at Harvard Business School.

To set the proper HR policies:

  • Include high-level HR personnel when formulating the procedures
  • Ensure the procedures mesh perfectly with the organization’s mission, vision and values
  • Promote the corporate culture through HR
  • Be aware of cultural subtleties
  • Seek, receive and incorporate junior HR management’s feedback into the final blueprint

#2. Embed the corporate HR vision in the value chain

Your company’s value chain encompasses all internal and external processes that, collectively or individually, create operational or financial benefits to the business. Simply put, it’s everything that adds value to a final product or service.

Your typical value chain includes such activities as production, marketing, delivery and customer service.  And these are the areas you want to focus on.

After setting adequate HR policies, apply them – and adapt them, if needed – to your value chain, showing personnel how the policies are good for business, for their own performance and for the company’s overall reputation.

To do this effectively, assemble of strong bench of top managers in each department along the value chain, and make each one accountable for a specific deliverable—such as performance, productivity, cultural diversity and employee empowerment, to name a few.

#3. Seek 360-degree feedback throughout the organization

According to Edward Lazear, professor of Human Resources Management at Stanford University, creating an effective feedback loop can help jumpstart human capital management in your company.

The goal here is not to ask employees the same old “What can we improve?” or “How can you do your job better?” questions. Rather, ask different versions of the same question, focusing on how the HR policies affect their specific functions, and how these functions fall into the overall operational process of the company.

Here’s an example: Say one of your key HR policies emphasizes a return on investment of 10% on each employee in the sales department. In other words, you want each salesperson to generate 110% of his or her salary in annual revenue quota. To achieve this objective:

  • Set the right, competitive salary for each staff member
  • Seek the sales team’s feedback before finalizing the HR policy
  • Adapt the corporate policy to internal procedures within the Sales and Marketing department
  • Define and agree on performance criteria and key success factors (KSF)
  • Track the KSF and, if needed, modify and realign them with industry trends and the company’s internal benchmarks

#4. Integrate technology in human capital management

Technology is here to say—you know that already. But what’s important to emphasize is that tech trends can effectively help improve your human capital management and propel your organization’s operations.

If your business hasn’t yet adapted to key fads in the technological sector, now is the time to make the switch and to reflect the change in priorities that consumers and your customers have already made.

According to Vala Afshar, CMO and Chief Customer Officer at Enterasys Network, technology can be a potent tool in human resource management, especially for a company that runs global operations in far-flung locales.

You can use technology in the way you:

  • Source and hire human talent
  • Set performance criteria and other productivity benchmarks
  • Evaluate staff performance periodically
  • Research productivity metrics and produce educational material adapted to personnel’s needs
  • Foster staff cohesion and camaraderie
  • Set the proper tone, both in terms of corporate culture and values

#5. Benchmark industry best practices

When it comes to human resources management, benchmarking remains an essential component you can rely on to evaluate your own procedures, identify what’s working, figure out what’s not, and determine why it’s not.

Benchmarking essentially means you emulate industry best practices. You can do so by seeking competitive intelligence through industry research, consultants, your own research department or academic literature.

The idea here is not to spy on your rivals and emulate what they’re doing gung-ho, but to thoroughly find the perfect medium between your corporate values and the type of human capital management procedures you need to make your company operationally effective and efficient.


When well-thought-out and effectively implemented, your human capital management strategy can help your startup or established company achieve operational symbiosis. You don’t need to reinvent the operational wheel or turn to an orthodoxy-breaking exercise to stir up your HR policies.

Just stick to the basic, good-old process of defining the problem, seeking alternatives, evaluating them, making a decision and doing a post-mortem review to see what worked and what didn’t.

Throughout the process, don’t forget to leverage technology extensively and make it a key analytical element, especially when reviewing human capital management across your value chain.

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Emad Rahim

Emad Rahim

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